25 August, 2014

The pavilion of Bahrain at 14th Biennale di Venezia

Conversation between the co-curator of the Bahrain pavilion at the 14th architecture biennale 2014, George Arbid, and A. Giacumacatos Cry

By Andreas Giakoumakatos

Greek version


George Arbid

George Arbid is an architect and Associate Professor of Architecture at the American University of Beirut. He received his Doctor of Design degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Design and his Diplôme d’Etudes Supérieures en Architecture from the Académie Libanaise des Beaux-Arts. Prior to his stay at Harvard, he was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at the History, Theory and Criticism Program at MIT. His area of interest covers mostly modern architecture in Lebanon and the region. Among his writings is “Beirut: the Phoenix and the Reconstruction Predicament”, an essay that he wrote for Urbanization and the Changing Character of the Arab City published by ESCWA in 2005. He is also the author of the forthcoming book Karol Schayer architect, a Pole in Beirut. Arbid is the co-founder and current director of the Arab Center for Architecture located in Beirut, and the founding member of Docomomo Lebanon. His published architecture practice includes the Shabb and Salem residences, the latter having been nominated for the Aga Khan Award in 1998.


George Arbid - Andreas Giacumacatos - Photo 2014

Bernard Khoury

Bernard Khoury studied architecture at the Rhode Island school of Design (B.F.A 1990 / B.Arch 1991). He received a Masters in Architectural studies from Harvard University (M.Arch 1993). In 2001, he was awarded by the municipality of Rome the honorable mention of the Borromini prize given to architects under 40 years of age. In 2004, he was awarded the Architecture + Award. He was a visiting professor at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne, L’Ecole Speciale d’Architecture in Paris and the American University of Beirut. He has lectured and exhibited his work in prestigious academic institutions in Europe and the U.S including a solo show of his work given by the International Forum for Contemporary Architecture at the Aedes gallery in Berlin (2003) and numerous group shows including YOUprison at the Fondazione Sandretto in Torino (2008) and SPACE at the opening show of the MAXXI museum in Rome (2010). His work has been extensively published by the professional press. Khoury started an independent practice in 1993. Over the past 15 years, his office has developed an international reputation and a significant diverse portfolio of projects both locally and abroad.

Pavilion of the Kingdom of Bahrain at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition- la Biennale di Venezia

Fundamentalists and Other Arab Modernisms, is the Kingdom of Bahrain’s third National participation at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition- La Biennale di Venezia, following its two successful participations with Reclaim in 2010 and Background in 2012.


Photo 2014


The pavilion, located in the Arsenale Artiglierie, is commissioned by her Excellency Sheikha Mai Bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Culture of the Kingdom of Bahrain and the curators are Bernard Khoury and Dr. George Arbid, co-founders of the Arab Center for Architecture (ACA), based in Beirut.

For its third participation, the Kingdom of Bahrain decided to concentrate on the wider Arab World and use the opportunity of the pavilion to support the efforts of the Arab Center for Architecture in creating a centralized database of architectural documents from across the Arab World. In parallel to the exhibition in Venice, significant efforts have been made toward the collection of an important number of documents that have been added to the database of the ACA that will be online to coincide with the opening of the Biennale. It is hoped that this will highlight the importance of collecting architecture archives; a task that the Arab Center for Architecture is undertaking.


Photo 2014


Fundamentalists and Other Arab Modernisms is an exploration of the links between colonialism, fundamentalism and modernity across the Arab World, in an effort to understand the links between each of these movements and their relation to the architecture of the time. At a time, when the Arab World is witnessing many changes, it seemed relevant to reflect on the legacy of the pan-Arab project.

The exhibition has been designed by DW5/ Bernard Khoury architects in Beirut and consists of a large-scale map of the Arab World that references the colonial maps. A circular library that contains the exhibition catalogue and gathers a selection of a hundred built projects between 1914 and 2014 across the Arab World surrounds the map. Above the installation, a dome supports projections of a commissioned screenplay by Studio Safar which comprises of a reading of the 22 national anthems of the arab countries.


Photo 2014


A collection of seven different essays form the scientific content of the exhibition and offer a historical overview of the evolution of architecture within the different geographical components of the Arab World: Iraq, the Arabian Peninsula, Egypt, the Levant, North Africa and East Africa. Each essay is accompanied by a selection of relevant archival documents of buildings from that region within the historical period of 1914 to 2014. The archival documents gathered in the publication represent a selection from within a wider collection that will be made available on the online database of the Arab Center for Architecture.

The collection of essays as well as a selection of a 100 buildings will form the basis of the exhibition catalogue entitled, Architecture from the Arab World 1914-2014 a selection, available for consultation at the pavilion.

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